Sunday, February 12, 2012

Black History In Australia: The Cover-Up Of The 1942 Townsville Mutiny By Black American GIs Against Their White Officers

Here's a report of black history you won't see promoted by the NAACP. In May 1942, a group of approximately 600 black American GIs mutinied against their white officers in an encampment near Townsville, Queensland, Australia. The story came to light through the papers of the late US President Lyndon B. Johnson. Media reports have surfaced from a number of sources, to include a current report from, a February 10th report from the same source, and the New Zealand Herald, the Brisbane Times, and the Voice of America,

A three-page excerpt from the original report is available HERE.

Summary: The mutiny involved 600 black troops assigned to two companies of the 96th Battalion, US Army Corps of Engineers, who had arrived in Townsville in April 1942 after crossing the Pacific by troopship and being mostly confined on board during a layover in Brisbane. The remainder of the batallion had been diverted to New Guinea. Although taken on cross-country hikes, the black engineers were not allowed into the city under strict segregation agreed to after negotiations between the U.S. military and the Australian federal and Queensland state governments. The engineers were billeted in Kelso, a base on the western outskirts of Townsville; their mission was to construct three airfields. The companies had relatively few officers assigned, resulting in management and disciplinary problems.

Trouble erupted shortly after the arrival of the troops, when about 100 of them fought with Marines who had rounded them up with bayonets and loaded rifles. The black GIs were then banned from town. But the specific triggering mechanism for the insurgency appears to have an extending ass-chewing by the company's white officers, some of which became racial in nature, although the Brisbane Times reports that one black soldier was shot and killed by one of the white officers.

As a result, one of the two companies got their rifles and determined that they would kill their commanding officer, a Captain Francis Williams of Columbus, GA. They fired several hundred rounds of ammunition at his tent. Capt. Williams took refuge in a slit trench and escaped injury. When other officers tried to escape the camp to get help, they were fired upon by mutineers in a halftrack equipped with a 50-caliber machine gun. Mutineers also reportedly used anti-aircraft guns. The mutiny reportedly lasted as long as eight hours. More than 700 rounds of ammunition were fired, at least one person was killed and dozens severely injured, and Australian troops were called in to roadblock the rioters. Although some members of the company and the captain were court-martialed, most members of the company were eventually shipped to New Guinea with no disciplinary action taken against them.

Ironically, the mutiny is said to have been led by three more-educated blacks from Chicago; the vast majority of the troops were Southern blacks. Of the 600 members of the comnpany, 500 are said to have participated in the mutiny, 250 of them actively.

A report was written by Robert Sherrod, a US journalist who was embedded with the troops. It never made it to the press, but was handed to Lyndon B Johnson at a Townsville hotel and eventually filed away into the National Archives and Records Administration. Both the Australian Defence Department and the Australian War Memorial say it could take months to research the incident, and say they have no details readily available for public release. However, James Cook University's Ray Holyoak, who uncovered this information in the first place, will spend the next two years researching the sentences handed out to both the officers and the mutineers involved, and why the information has been kept secret for so long.

Reaction: On Free Republic, some people conclude of the double standard in reporting between this incident and the highly-ballyhooed Port Chicago incident. Discussion thread on the F2 Anon board, which is white-friendly, and just getting started on Stormfront.

No comments: